Dam proposal that would flood part of park raises concerns Ground water vs. tot lot at heart of East-West debate

October 30, 1997|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

A proposal to build a dam that would flood part of a Mount Airy town park is raising questions from residents who say they knew nothing of the plan and who wonder about the safety of children who use a nearby park.

The plan to dam an unnamed stream that runs through East-West Park is expected to be discussed at a meeting of the town recreation commission tonight. The commission meets at 7: 30 p.m. at Town Hall, 110 S. Main St.

The proposal surfaced at the Oct. 6 Town Council meeting when Council President R. Delaine Hobbs said construction could begin in six to eight months on a dam to replenish ground water in the watershed that the town taps four of its eight wells.

The dam is expected to flood a recently installed tot lot and to bring water close to a fence at the edge of the park's ball diamond.

"Any time you can replenish ground water, you're thousands of dollars and millions of gallons of water ahead. That's more important than a small park," Hobbs said. He said the dam has been planned for 15 years.

Hobbs said he expects state approval for the dam soon. But Maryland Department of the Environment spokesman Quentin W. Banks was unable to find an application from Mount Airy to dam the stream.

MDE must approve all plans to tap or divert Maryland streams and rivers. The stream is a tributary of Woodville Branch, which flows in Frederick County.

Recreation commission Chairwoman Hilary Stenger said she was unaware a dam was planned at the park. "Nor did it really come up when we put the tot lot in" six months ago, she said. The play equipment cost about $12,000, she said.

"This town really loves their parks and we thought, since there was space available and families do come to use [East-West Park], we'd utilize that area" for the tot lot, Stenger said.

She said she wants to learn what safety measures the town government plans for children who would continue using the park after the dam is built.

Councilman David W. Pyatt, council liaison to the recreation commission, said the dam and park can coexist. Pyatt said he has known the dam was planned for seven years. He said Hobbs told him about it when the ball diamond was built at East-West Park in 1990.

The diamond "was supposed to be a short-term fix because of the shortage of ball fields," Pyatt said. He said although the field is small, it has been very popular with beginning baseball players.

In Pyatt's view, it will be possible to move the tot lot equipment and continue to use both it and the ball diamond. "You'd like more distance," he said. "You'd have water coming up to the edge of the field. But there's a lot of brushy area there. I think it could work."

Mount Airy's comprehensive plan proposes that the town rely on existing wells and develop new ones to provide water to a growing population. It does not mention the dam. Former Town Planner Teresa M. Bamberger, who shepherded the development of the comprehensive plan, said the committee that wrote the plan "didn't see [the dam] as an issue. We didn't study it or look into it."

Carroll County Planner Sandra L. Baber and Frederick County Planner Lisa Williams, liaisons for Mount Airy, said that they didn't know the town was planning to construct a dam.

Hobbs cut off an interview with The Sun before he could be asked how much acreage it would cover or when the town submitted its request to build the dam to MDE.

Pub Date: 10/30/97

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